Myanmar’s Suu Kyi vows to investigate crimes against Rohingya – U.N.’s Zeid

Myanmar’s Suu Kyi vows to investigate crimes against Rohingya – U.N.’s Zeid

By Stephanie Nebehay | GENEVA

The top United Nations human rights official said Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi promised on Friday to investigate U.N. allegations of atrocities against Rohingya Muslims.

Security forces and police have committed mass killings and gang rapes and burned villages in northern Rakhine state, a U.N. investigation published on Friday found.

“I did speak to Aung San Suu Kyi about an hour and a half ago. I called upon her to use every means available to exert pressure on the military and the security services to end this operation,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said in an interview with Reuters in Geneva.

“She informed me that an investigation will be launched. She said that they would require further information.”

In Yangon, presidential spokesman Zaw Htay said: “These are extremely serious allegations, and we are deeply concerned. We will be immediately investigating these allegations through the investigation commission led by Vice-President U Myint Swe.

“Where there is clear evidence of abuses and violations, we will take all necessary action.”

Myanmar, a mostly Buddhist country, has previously denied almost all allegations of human rights abuses against Muslims in northern Rakhine and says a lawful counterinsurgency campaign is under way.

Since it began on Oct. 9, about 69,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh. The U.N. report was based on accounts gathered in January from 220 of them.

Witnesses testified to “the killing of babies, toddlers, children, women and elderly; opening fire at people fleeing; burning of entire villages; massive detention; massive and systematic rape and sexual violence; deliberate destruction of food and sources of food”.

One woman described her baby’s throat being slit. Another was raped by soldiers and saw her five-year-old daughter killed.

The report said the actions by security forces probably amounted to crimes against humanity.

“HORRORS”

Zeid said the perpetrators of such “horrors” must be held to account. Possible avenues would be the establishment of an international commission of inquiry or the involvement of the International Criminal Court.

The report described “area clearance operations” – gunfire and grenades dropped on villages from helicopters – which probably killed hundreds.

Nearly half of those interviewed said a family member had been killed or disappeared while 101 women reported having been raped or subjected to sexual violence.

Testimonies pointed to “a persecution on ethnic grounds which is similar to what has been, in other contexts, described as ‘ethnic cleansing’,” U.N. mission leader Linnea Arvidsson told a news briefing.

The investigators took evidence including photographs of bullet and knife wounds, burns, and injuries resulting from beatings with rifle butts or bamboo sticks.

The plight of the stateless Rohingya, of whom some 1.1 million live in apartheid-like conditions in Rakhine, has long been a source of friction between Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Many Rohingya had hoped that Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, would work to restore their rights once her civilian administration took power in March last year.

But within weeks of the latest crisis erupting, diplomats and aid workers were privatedly expressing dismay at her lack of deeper involvement.

“I am not going to go now into the extent to which she should have done more or less,” Zeid said. “There has to be some responsibility.”

Officials have so far denied observers and independent journalists access to the conflict area, while accusing Rohingya of fabricating stories and collaborating with insurgents who they say are terrorists with links to Islamists overseas.

(Additional reporting by Wa Lone in Yangon; Editing by Tom Miles and Andrew Roche)

Source by: http://uk.reuters.com

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By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized

Myanmar’s probe of lawyer’s killing beset by leaks, confusion

Myanmar’s probe of lawyer’s killing beset by leaks, confusion

By Shwe Yee Saw Myint and Simon Lewis | YANGON

Myanmar’s national police chief has taken personal charge of an investigation into the killing of a prominent lawyer and adviser to Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling party, police sources said, after leaks and conflicting comments by officers about its progress.

The killing of Muslim advocate Ko Ni, 63 – shot in the head on Sunday in front of onlookers while he held his grandson outside Yangon’s international airport – has rocked the commercial capital, where acts of political violence are rare.

It comes amid heightened religious and communal tensions in the Buddhist-majority country, with a report from the United Nations human rights office on Friday saying a military crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in the northwest in recent months “very likely” amounted to crimes against humanity.

Tens of thousands turned out for Ko Ni’s funeral, and the public is closely watching how authorities investigate a killing the civilian president’s office has called an attempt to destabilize the state.

Colleagues have told Reuters Ko Ni was working on amendments to Myanmar’s military drafted constitution to help the National League for Democracy-led government rule effectively in a system that keeps soldiers in control of key ministries.

Major General Zaw Win, chief of the Myanmar Police Force, arrived in Yangon from the capital, Naypyidaw, on Thursday to oversee the probe, which is being led by the police’s criminal investigation department, two police officials told Reuters.

The official, who like other police spoke about the investigation on condition of anonymity, said the military’s domestic intelligence agency was also involved in the probe.

A military intelligence agent told Reuters he was instructed to monitor Ko Ni in the months before the lawyer’s death.

The intelligence agency was primarily concerned with finding out how the suspect obtained a firearm, ownership of which is tightly controlled in Myanmar, the official said.

CITIZEN INVESTIGATORS

The suspected shooter – named by police as Kyi Linn, 53 – was arrested after a group of taxi drivers chased the him down. One of the drivers was himself shot and killed.

Despite a ban on police talking publicly about the case, photographs showing parts of a report on Kyi Linn’s interrogation have spread widely online. Officials believe the images were leaked after police used the messaging app Viber to share them with colleagues.

The leak sparked a race on social media – use of which has rocketed in Myanmar since recent telecommunications reforms – to identify a man who, according to the document, Kyi Linn said enticed him to shoot Ko Ni.

Facebook users posted photos of purported suspects, and analyzed CCTV footage from the airport to devise often far-fetched conspiracy theories. Many in Myanmar distrust the police, who are under the remit of the military.

Police themselves have made contradictory statements on whether suspects are under arrest or not.

The office of President Htin Kyaw said late on Friday that a 46-year-old named Aung Win Zaw had been detained in the early hours of Monday, just hours after Ko Ni’s shooting, in the eastern state of Kayin, which borders Thailand.

Aung Win Zaw is accused of conspiring with Kyi Linn to kill Ko Ni, the office said in a statement, adding that police were searching for more suspects.

Police said Kyi Linn – who is charged with murder – has been jailed twice in the past for trafficking Buddhist artefacts, but was released in a 2014 amnesty granted by then-President Thein Sein.

Another former cell mate told Reuters he thought Kyi Linn would do anything “for his business and money,” adding: “I don’t think he is related to any political and religious issues.”

In his home village of Sai Lyar, members of Kyi Linn’s family were shocked by the news, carried by police and reporters who have visited their farming community in rural Sagaing Division since Sunday.

“I am sure my brother would not kill someone on his own,” Kyi Linn’s younger sister, Win Kyi, told Reuters. “There must be someone behind him.”

(Additional reporting by Saw Nang in SAI LYAR VILLAGE; Editing by Alex Richardson)

Source by: http://www.reuters.com

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized

Pirates, cyclones and mud: Bangladesh’s island solution to Rohingya crisis

Pirates, cyclones and mud: Bangladesh’s island solution to Rohingya crisis

A Bangladeshi coast guard vessel approaches the Thengar Char island in the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh, February 2, 2017. Picture taken February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain
By Antoni Slodkowski | THENGAR CHAR, BANGLADESH

 

The island is two hours by boat from the nearest settlement. There are no buildings, mobile phone reception or people. During the monsoon it often floods and, when the seas are calm, pirates roam nearby waters hunting for fishermen to kidnap for ransom.

Welcome to Thengar Char, a muddy stain in the murky waters of the Bay of Bengal, identified by Bangladesh as a short-term solution to the humanitarian crisis unfolding on its border with Myanmar, across which some 70,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled.

Those refugees, escaping an army crackdown on insurgents that began in October, have joined more than 200,000 Rohingya already living in official and makeshift camps, straining resources in one of Asia’s poorest regions. Bangladesh says the refugees bring crime and a risk of disease.

The influx has prompted Dhaka to revive a plan – much criticized by humanitarian workers when it was first proposed in 2015 – to move thousands of people to this uninhabited island about 250 km (150 miles) northwest of their border camps.

While most experts dismiss the scheme as impractical, a Bangladeshi minister told Reuters this week that it was determined to push ahead, adding authorities would provide shelters, other facilities and livestock.

Local administrators, however, say they have not been informed, and when Reuters visited the island the only signs of activity were a few buffalo lazily grazing on the yellow grass along its shores.

“We have only heard bad things about the Rohingya. If they work with the pirates and get involved in crime – we don’t want them here,” said Mizanur Rahman, 48, the administrator of Might Bangha village, the closest settlement to Thengar Char.

Rahman added, however, that if the Rohingya were “good people”, they should be helped on humanitarian grounds. Others from the village echoed that sentiment, saying they were fellow Muslims and deserved assistance.

The crisis is the biggest challenge facing the government of Aung San Suu Kyi, straining Myanmar’s relations with the countries of the region hosting large Rohingya populations such as Bangladesh and Malaysia, but also the United States.

About 1.1 million Rohingya live in apartheid-like conditions in northwestern Myanmar, where they are denied citizenship. Many in Buddhist-majority Myanmar regard them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, while the authorities in Dhaka say they are Myanmar nationals and must ultimately go back.

To view a graphic on Bangladesh’s Rohingya relocation plan, click tmsnrt.rs/2k7ZAZy

PIRATES AND MACHINE GUNS

It takes about two hours by boat from Rahman’s village on the coast of Sandwip – one of the largest islands in an archipelago in southern Bangladesh – to Thengar Char.

Reuters journalists were escorted there by a fishing boat and a coastguard vessel carrying seven officers equipped with Chinese-made machine guns to stave off potential pirate attacks.

Villagers complain criminals roam the nearby waters, seizing vessels, stealing the catch and releasing fishermen only after receiving a ransom.

Thengar Char is flat and featureless, covered by bushes, grass and windswept trees.

It emerged from the sea about 11 years ago, off Sandwip’s western coast, one of the myriad of shifting, unstable islands formed by sediment in the mouth of the mighty Meghna river.

While Thengar Char looked calm on a sunny winter afternoon, the main objection voiced by aid agencies to Bangladesh’s plan is the area’s unforgiving climate.

“These areas are cyclone and flood-prone,” said Quamrul Hassan, a meteorologist at the Bangladesh Weather Department, adding that the islands in the Bay of Bengal were “especially risky” to inhabit.

“Average rainfall during the monsoon season in the coastal areas is more than double that of the other parts of the country.”

Many people living on the islands are regularly evacuated during the cyclone season to shelters built on the coast, said local journalist Saleh Noman.

He thought the relocation plan wasn’t realistic.

“There is a similar island in the area and it took some 40 years for it to develop. Bet even now it’s all very basic,” said Noman.

There are currently around 30,000 Rohingya living in camps run by the United Nations near border with Myanmar, while tens of thousands more are crammed into slums that have grown up around them, without proper sanitation or healthcare.

The Rohingya from those settlements sometimes find employment, but most are sustained by local villagers and rations quietly distributed by international aid agencies.

“We can operate here, but we can’t really talk about it,” said one aid worker based in the border region.

Rohingya refugees Reuters spoke to did not want to stay where they were – but neither did they want to be moved to Thengar Char.

“We left everything in Myanmar,” said Abu Salam from Kya Guang Taung, a village in northern Myanmar that was destroyed in the crackdown. He crossed the border in December.

“That’s where our home is. If only we could get citizenship, we would like to go back.”

(Reporting by Antoni Slodkowski; Additional reporting by Ruma Paul in Dhaka; Editing by Alex Richardson)

Source by: http://www.reuters.com

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized